Officials from the Ocean Affairs Council (OAC) and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday visited the US’ newest research ship, the Sally Ride, at the Port of Keelung, as it stopped over in Taiwan for the first time.
The 3,043-tonne vessel, which departed from the Bay of Bengal on Aug. 5, has been berthed at the port since Thursday last week on its way to the international waters near Palau.
It has attracted the attention of the local media, as it flies the US and Republic of China (ROC) flags — even though the ROC flag is flown as a “courtesy flag” as a token of respect by a visiting ship.
Photo: Lin Chia-nan, Taipei Times
Commissioned in 2014, the Sally Ride is owned by the US Office of Naval Research and operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
It was yesterday open to limited visitors from the AIT, the council, the ROC Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Office, National Taiwan University (NTU) and local reporters.
Asked why they chose Taiwan for a stopover, James Moum, physical oceanography professor at Oregon State University, said that Taiwan is at a unique position to observe typhoons and ocean turbulence in the western Pacific.
He is the chief scientist of the “Propagation of Intra-Seasonal Tropical Oscillations” project, which involves Taiwanese, US and Filipino personnel.
How the sea surface temperatures change globally and how the ocean responds to typhoons are topics that deserve more attention, as the processes are subtle and work differently in varying locations, Moum said.
In addition to the vessel’s state-of-the-art instruments, the team shipped a seagoing polarimetric radar system for measuring extreme weather conditions from Colorado to be installed on the vessel.
NTU Institute of Oceanography director Jan Sen (詹森) said he has served as a contact for visiting US research vessels since 2008.
It is usually not a problem for a foreign research vessel to be berthed in Kaohsiung or Keelung, but the Sally Ride had difficulty finding an ideal dock in Kaohsiung because of communication problems, he said.
Taiwan should establish itself as the best relay station for visiting research vessels, given its advantages in terms of geographical position, harbor infrastructure and logistics, and outstanding research, he said.
Prior to the onboard tour, Jan invited the team to visit the New Ocean Researcher I — one of Taiwan’s three new research vessels being built by CSBC Corp in Keelung — which is expected to be commissioned next year.
OAC National Academy of Marine Research acting president Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳) said that the academy is tasked with boosting Taiwan’s marine industry, but receiving visiting research vessels is not within its purview.
The academy had planned to take over four existing research vessels, but encountered firm objection from universities and the semi-official Taiwan Ocean Research Institute, Chiu said, adding that building a fleet of research ships remains its goal in the long run.
After leaving for international waters near Palau on Monday, the vessel is scheduled to return to the Port of Keelung on Sept. 27.
In related news, the AIT said that it would next month launch an education month as part of its yearlong celebration of 40 years of friendship and partnership between the US and Taiwan.
Since the start of the year, the AIT@40 campaign has been holding monthly events under various themes that highlight the current nature of US-Taiwan relations.
“In honor of AIT@40 Education Month, AIT will host a series of events celebrating the strong educational ties between the United States and Taiwan,” it said in a statement.
These events will include exhibits, seminars, conferences, workshops, visits by US academics and an international education fair, it said.
As part of the program, an international workshop on Defending Democracy through Promoting Media Literacy is to be held on Sept. 10 and 11, with the aim of examining the ways in which disinformation influences elections, the AIT said, adding that major elections are due in both Taiwan and the US next year.
Other events will include an exhibition from Thursday next week to Sept. 26 titled “Strong Foundation, Bright Future: AIT@40, US-Taiwan Relations since 1979”; and a reunion of alumni of a US government exchange program on Friday next week, which will feature keynote addresses by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) and AIT Director Brent Christensen.
“US-Taiwan education cooperation extends beyond just cooperation in schools to lifelong and professional learning opportunities,” the AIT said.
Meanwhile, the annual US-Taiwan Consultations on Democratic Governance in the Indo-Pacific Region is to open on Sept. 12 to coordinate policy and create joint programming to promote democratic institutions and the rule of law throughout the region, the AIT said.
The AIT yesterday also announced that Randall Nadeau will be the new executive director of the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange in Taiwan (Fulbright Taiwan).
“As executive director of one of the largest Fulbright Programs in the Indo-Pacific Region, Dr Nadeau will facilitate hundreds of educational exchange opportunities every year between the United States and Taiwan,” the AIT said, adding that the program is the US Department of State’s flagship academic exchange program.
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